National Geograhic photographer swimming with Southern Right Whale


 Southern Right Whales (Eubalaena australis) interspecies interactions have been observed in brief infrequent instances. One highly recorded interspecies interaction took place prior to 1925 between E. australis  and humans. Prior to the great whaling expedition there were estimated to be 10,000 E. australis In the New Zealand area. E. australis is the most vulnerable of all baleen whales. They are slow swimmers, and highly buoyant due to their large quantities of oil. E. australis  was known as the "right whale" for hunting. These whales were easy to capture, floated after being harpooned, and their baleen was valuable and manufactured into a variety of commodities. Only the blue whale suffered a greater decline in population (Hutching, 2012).

Southern Right Whale taken by Brian Skerry for National Geographic

Eubalaena australis have been sighted on a number of occasions traveling with humpback whales. The behavior of both whale groups was described as resting, milling, and predominantly traveling. Both groups sighted were traveling in a south. On another occasion E. australis was sighted with Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Schaeff et al., 1999). This species identification was noticed due to the disruption of color. It is speculated that E. australis join or even follow humpback whales to and from the Mozambique breeding grounds (Harrison, 2005). Evidence of this includes location of both breeding grounds and presence of coronuline barnacles (found in humpback whale mating sites) on E. australis (Best, 1991). The two species have been seen traveling together in Antarctica. The relationship between E. australis  and  South African humpback whale is unlikely to be sexual (Sekiguchi et al., 2010).

Killer whales have been observed preying on Eubalaena australis. Similarly to their vulnerability to humans, the E. australis are vulnerable to vicious killer whale attacks. Although much larger, the E. australis are much slower. E. australis are not common prey for killer whales, it is speculated that this prey may have been in a time of need. Killer whales are not considered common predators of the E. australis.

Eubalaena australis are identified in part by the callosities on their heads. These callosities are grey and soft when the whales are calves and harden as the whale matures (Hutching, 2010). These callosities are often infested by lice. This whale lice is what gives the callosities their white color (Harrison, 2005).

These baleen whales are sustained on plankton and krill obtained through skimming. Eubalaena australis swims with its head partial above water filtering mouthfuls of prey between baleen plates (Smith, 2000). When their mouth is full, the E. australis forces water out, dives and swallows.

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